MARBLEHEAD, Mass.-If Gerry Rafferty of the ’70s band Stealers Wheel had been a sailor, he might have been speaking about racing off Marblehead when he wrote his band’s one big hit, “Stuck in the Middle With You.”
Normally, playing the middle is the safe bet, one that gives a sailor the opportunity to work every shift. It may not be a race-winning strategy, but over the course of a regatta it can provide the consistency needed to take home some hardware. However, this theory doesn’t always work, and Marblehead-where over 200 boats are gathered this weekend for the Lands’ End NOOD Regatta at Marblehead Race Week-is one of the places where it falls short.
“The difficult thing that I’ve figured out,” said local sailor Bill Lynn, who’s winning the 37-boat Sonar class by five points after five races, “is that you’ve got to pick a side and stick to it. Marblehead’s always been weird that way. The problem is if you get a good start and you jump out, your natural inclination is to cover and you end up in the middle getting your ass kicked.”
Lynn, a top Etchells sailor before he migrated to the Sonar a few years back, has given out a lot more butt kickings on the waters off Marblehead Neck than he’s received of late. His results today were no different, a third and a first, which has lifted him clear of a three-way dog fight for second between Sam Altreuter, Stew Neff and Henry Brauer, and Dave Curtis. “We were scrambling all day, but hanging on,” he said. “We had good speed.”
The wind was mostly light today, out of the Northeast, but there were spurts of pressure before the wind died completely by mid-afternoon. All 12 classes got in two races and the Stars got in truncated third race which was finished at the first leeward mark.
Changes like this would’ve meant constant gear shifting on an Etchells, but Lynn said the Sonar isn’t as needy. “The boats are funny,” he said. “They’re not like an Etchells where there’s all these things you have to do with the rig when the wind changes by a knot. That’s how we started out four years ago, but what we’ve found is you really don’t have to change a lot.”
Along with regular crew Doug Saban and Chris Hufstader, Lynn sailed with his 10-year-old daughter Hannah, who was filing in for co-owner Ed Keller. “She’s been doing the Opti Green Fleet stuff so she’s clued in,” said Lynn. “She gets what’s going on now and really has a lot of fun.”
According to Lynn, however, Hannah’s Green Fleet days are coming to a close, she’s won her last two regattas and will soon find herself moved up to the more competitive divisions.
As for Sunday’s strategy, Lynn was pretty succinct: “It’s an incredibly deep fleet. The good news is we haven’t eaten a big one yet. We’ll just try to stay out of everyone’s way. Let them [the trio of boats within three points of second] fight it out.”
The Stars aren’t a regular participant in the NOOD regattas, coming to Marblehead every other year and appearing at Annapolis last spring. But they’re set up for a stirring finish tomorrow. There are four skippers within a point of first. Peter Cusick and John Lombard are tied for first with 14 points while Josh Phypers and Guy Gurney are tied for third with 15 points. And it doesn’t get any more spread out as you move down the standings. Tomas Hornos is in fifth with 19 points, one ahead of Susie Pegel, and then there are four points tied on points for seventh with 29.
The J/24 class is dissolving into a two-boat battle as leader Will Welles slipped a bit from yesterday and now has a one-point lead over Brian Bissell, with third place eight points further behind. With Bissell and Welles representing rival sail makers-North and Quantum, respectively-this should be a fun showdown to watch.
Finally in the Rhodes 19 class, defending champ Kim Pandapas has showed the rest of the fleet his stern today with a two and a one and now has a five-point lead over William Heffernan.
Sunday is the final day of sailing for all 12 classes in the Lands’ End NOOD Regatta at Marblehead Race Week.